Lately my mail has been flooded with coupon booklets from Kohls and JC Penney featuring the “Back to School!” and “Get College Ready!” taglines. The glossy pages are plastered with the corny smiles of models that are supposed to be my age but look like they are in their early twenties. They annoy me to no end because currently the thought of heading away to college does not make me want to energetically leap for joy.
It seems that as each day dissolves into the brilliant hues of a summer sunset another thread of doubt winds itself around my mind. As someone who constantly skates on thin ice over the dark depths of depression, I have to grit my teeth and yank myself away from the pull of these negative feelings (cue Florence and the Machine’s song “Shake It Out”).
I have spoken with several of my closest friends about how they are coping with their own struggles about leaving home and they all agree that the excitement that they once felt is now laced with uncertainties and fears. I have compiled a list of these shadowy emotions; the ugly side of going to college for the first time. Now I know that not every freshmen carries these unsettling sentiments, but I’m sure more do that less.
Guilt: “You’re leaving me.” says Mom. She’s close to tears like she is nearly every time you cross paths. Dad seems to be in denial of you going away to college since he never mentions it. Your sister wants to watch Disney movies together. Even your dogs look at you more longingly. You overhear arguments concerning the fiscal side of matters. Another job, overtime, all for you. You don’t deserve this, do you? Maybe this was a horrible idea if wanting to go to college causes so much grief.
Doubt: You do want this right? Where did those carefully constructed columns of self-confidence go? You had everything planned out so precisely; it was all so happy-go-lucky and now the storm clouds have moved in. You’re suddenly paralyzed, stuck in limbo.
Regret: Move-in is only a few days away now. You gaze around your house with fresh eyes noticing all the little things that make it your home. You realized that you’ve stared out at the view from your bedroom window for so long that you could draw it from memory. Geez, did you use all the time you spent here the way you should have?
Stress: The mountainous pile of college supplies has entirely consumed your room and smaller stacks have started to form in the kitchen. But do you have everything? You reorganize the Mount Everest of bedding, binders, and boxes to make sure and that’s when you begin to wonder if you’re bringing too much. You drop over $60 on toiletries alone at CVS and you nearly pass out at register. This is impossible.
Fear: What if you get to class and find that you can’t learn anymore? What if you fail at all your subjects? Do you tuck tail and run back to face the scowls of your disappointed parents? What if your dreams are just that? Airy substances that were never meant to materialize into a solid future? You don’t feel strong enough to make them real.
Well, it would be pretty pointless and downright cruel if all I did was blog about unhappiness and angst without offering a solution overcoming this temporary state of despair. Here are a few lines of advice that I have come up with to help myself that I hope any student can turn to when they are feeling blue.
First things first- be honest with yourself. Recognize what you are struggling with. You cannot begin to fix something if you are in denial about it being broken. Maybe your friends are in the mindset of “WOO COLLEGE YEAH!” and you join in with their enthusiasm when inside you are not completely happy. The more you conceal your fears and cake on mask after mask of fake smiles and I’m fine’s the harder it will be to strip away that artificial personality and get back to your genuine self. Face what you feel and tell yourself “I’m not alright right now. I need to do something about that.”
Talk it out to someone; a close friend, a guardian, a mentor, a sibling, anyone whose words have real worth to you. Spill your guts to them; lay it all on the table. If you cannot rebuild your confidence alone, find someone who will help you put the pieces back with their encouragement and care.
Get alone but don’t get lost in your own head. We tend to manifest our problems into obstacles that we convince ourselves can never be conquered; we are our own worst enemies. Solitary moments of reflection are necessary and healthy for a stable, positive attitude; they keep you on the right track. Use these times to address your issues and kick yourself in the pants about solving them instead of throwing a pity party.
Lastly, remember that everything is going to be A-OK. You are not the only kid out there terrified of bidding adieu to home and awkwardly waving hello to college life. You have nothing to worry about especially since you are going to George Mason, which really has to be one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been to. With an entire week devoted to having fun and getting you settled in, you should be running out the front door to get there instead of sinking your fingernails into the wood frame.
Besides, you are not abandoning your friends and family, your hometown and home for forever and ever until the last recorded syllable of time has sounded. As I told my friend Katie as I sobbed onto her shoulder when she left for Liberty University last week, “It’s not ‘goodbye.’ It’s ‘see you later.”
The Mason Nation is waiting with open arms.
(That felt amazing to write out. I can breathe easily now. Phew.)